Godspeed You! Black Emperor at ABC, 27/10/17

Hot on the heels of new record Luciferian Towers, the Montreal anarchist collective return to the UK for a short tour and it’s every bit as furious and abrasive as you would expect.

Even the quiet moments of a Godspeed show sound like the dying breaths of some tremendous sea beast; the loud bits sound like the band is trying to blow the building to pieces.


After a trio of critically acclaimed records in the late nineties and early 2000s, the collective vanished, only reappearing as a group for a fourth album, the creatively punctuated ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, in 2012.

Since then they’ve released two further records, made some marginally less abrasive music in the guise of Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra, trolled Canada’s equivalent of the Mercury prize and even taken the comparatively conventional step of touring with Nine Inch Nails.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, they’re playing no one’s game but their own.

Shrouded in darkness eight musicians array themselves in a loose semi-circle; no-one addressing the audience, shrouded in darkness.

Their music draws on post rock and drone to deliver dark and stormy soundscapes like the soundtrack to a dramatic retreat from civilisation.

Instead the focus is on huge video projections which lend the band an epic filmic feel, from spiralling aircraft picked out in black and white to the brutalist tower blocks which accompany ‘Undoing a Luciferian Tower’.

The message here is blunt: modern living is killing us; but accompanied by the band’s sledgehammer riffs it’s an undeniably effective combo.

Tonight the new record Luciferian Towers is played in its entirety; contributing four of tonight’s seven tracks.

It’s an impressive record, filled with revolutionary zeal (Hang the Bosses) and even a few hints that for all the bleak outlook that their records draw upon, this is a group who believe that in music, fresh stems of wonder can spring forth.

Appropriately for a Godspeed show though, it’s going to take some brutal catharsis to get to the beauty and as wave after wave of punishing noise comes crashing down, the casual listener could be forgiven for wondering if the payoff is worth the sacrifice.

At times this is difficult listening and GY!BE have no interest in easing less familiar listeners in, something made even less straightforward by the lack of an obvious band leader on stage.

This isn’t music performed so much as inhabited and in fact as the show goes on the band seem determined to replace audience interaction with a desire to go louder and louder and louder.

By the time they hit the crescendo of ‘BBF3’ the room is ringing so loudly that it sounds as if it should soundtrack the moment in a horror movie where every character’s nose starts bleeding simultaneously.

With track lengths averaging somewhere around the quarter hour mark and a buzzing in the ears that suggests the beginnings of some fairly major hearing damage, this is not a gig for the faint-hearted.

For the hardy few, it seems like something close to transcendence.

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Words: Max Sefton
Photos: Stewart Fullerton


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